Nutritional Philosophy

It has been a long time coming, this post. Many years ago, when I set up the original website, I had planned to add articles of all variety, and earnestly tried. Alas, I was not in control of the site, I had to find a time when my super helpful but equally very busy webmaster could donate time – and by the time HE had a minute, I had 6 clients with urgent issues. So it goes. During this time I’ve written articles for several magazines and publications, finished my Diploma in Canine Nutrition and my Chartered Herbalist diploma, updated my site many times, expanded my services,  developed three online courses, and volunteered at both my yahoogroup and AllExperts for all these years. But I never did sit down and write about my philosophy and approach, not in one single (hopefully) coherent post. Today seems to be that day. I’ve encountered so much online that I can’t agree with, that in fact runs counter to everything I’ve learned and more importantly, seen firsthand, I find myself exasperated more than is probably good for me. So to that end, here we go; my philosophy. It’s not that elaborate, but it pivots on a few key points. Read on, see what you think.

First and foremost, as too few seem to realize, dogs are not obligate carnivores like the cat nor are they omnivores, like the pig. They are facultative, or the more expressive preferential, carnivores. This means simply that they metabolize nutrient differently from a true carnivore, and can do better on a plant based diet, though this is not usually indicated, than the cat ever will. In the last decade we have heard incessantly that dogs should be fed an all meat and bone diet (with some organ tossed in for good measure) because that’s what “carnivores” should eat. I take exception to this on many levels. Bear with me and I’ll try to make it succinct.

First, within any species there is bioindividuality – and the dog is no exception. Given the various breeds, the range of ethics in breeding practises, the many generations of feeding dogs pure garbage (Purina, and worse) and the tendency for them to not only undergo more vaccination, veterinary treatment etc than is good for them but also encounter much more direct toxin (lawn and household chemicals) face to face – I have to tell you, dogs are NOT this singular entity that  thrives on precisely the same (raw, kibble, depends on whose dogma we’re dealing with) diet. I approach any dog I am hired to develop a diet for, with two bright and shining lights guiding me; one is the science of nutrition, which clearly shows us that certain nutrients are required in minimal and optimal amounts; and the second is the individual dog. I am not interested in arguing the validity of the NRC Guidelines; for me, it’s a given that amino and fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, energy and water – need to be supplied in balanced amounts. I start with what the science we currently have tells us. And then, I evaluate the dog. Whatever diet I develop, raw or cooked, grainfree or not, whatever levels of fat, carbohydrate and protein I sue, whatever food sources I employ – the diet will cover the dog’s nutrient requirements as laid out by the NRC Guidelines. That’s first. And second, it has to work for the dog. There is no one single formulaic way of feeding that is either always right or totally optimal.  Raw diets have drawbacks and very specific contraindications (IBD, Cancer, pancreatitis, immune dysfunction). Cooked diets may not be as effective at controlling allergy as raw (or, they might be). Some dogs can have multi-ingredient diets, which I love because I can get so much nutrient from food, but then I emphasize, foods used all the time should be the purest of sources. Some do better with rotated, single protein recipes. There is no one law, except the ones previously mentioned. That one will be disputed, but try an experiment: stop all Vitamin C in your own diet and see what happens. (On second thought don’t, I’m dramatizing). There are, contrary to what some extremists will insist, facts in the world of nutritional science. And your dog needs  many nutrients that are almost always low in home made diets, and he or she needs them regularly.

In a nutshell; my method is precise, scientific and individualized.

I’ve seen so many dogs thrive on diets I would not have thought compatible with their profile, and then analyzed them and discovered why. I’ve seen dogs doing horribly on raw, recover on a balanced cooked diet and be able to return to the raw. And those that couldn’t. And those who scratched themselves silly on a beautiful, grainfree, novel ingredient, supplemented home made cooked diet, who stopped itching in the same diet served raw. I could go on..I’ve  seen two cases that no matter what we did they had GI upset – only kibble worked (and yep, there’s reasons for that too, but the point here is my philosophy, I’ll be going into all these specifics later).

My philosophy is to alleviate/manage the symptom while still providing optimal nutrition.

I do what works. My toolkit is open-ended. I live by First Do No Harm so all nutrient requirements are carefully calculated and provided for.  I use raw, cooked, grains if tolerated, usually rice in moderation, grain free(but never carbfree, much more on THAT pervasive myth to follow) fish-based, vegetarian(YUP) novel-protein, low-fat, high fat – you name it, I start with the essentials, and manipulate the details so we can  make the most of your dog’s health – YOUR dog, not some average dog who doesn’t appear to exist. If he needs more fiber, we raise it. If she needs less fat, that’s adjusted. Because the idea that one recipe- one product, one method –  will work for all dogs, is pure and simply, not true.

Beyond nutrition, I believe in minimizing lawn and household chemicals (for oh so many reasons) vaccinating with caution, and minimally; using herbs, diet and supplements to manage conditions and to heal; I believe in TTouch, fresh air,exercise,, positive reinforcement , a good attitude and love. I believe in the power of diet to heal far and away beyond what we humans recognize – for us as well as our dogs.

But most of all, I believe dogs are worth it. The extra hour of math, the careful measurement, the time to cook if your rawfed dog isn’t thriving – they’re worth it. The extra time and research to switch to raw from kibble – the commitment to ongoing research and inquiry; they’re worth it.  Whatever we believe or where we are in our learning curve – it’s about them. I believe  health is accessible – and hope, in these pages, to help contribute to real knowledge – the empowerment of understanding options, and making optimal choices.

How’s that for the short version??

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3 thoughts on “Nutritional Philosophy

  1. Great intro! The sooner people understand the fact that each dog (or cat) is an individual and needs the right food for their individual needs, the sooner the will see their pet thrive. My Caramel is a great example of a dog that has done better eating kibble (horror of horrors, she’s free fed, too) than she ever did eating a raw (it was unbsalanced) diet.

    • Glad you enjoyed it and that your dog is doing well – you can return to home made, raw or cooked, when you feel ready. And please look forward to both *serious* entries and lighter stuff here. Thanks for the comment!

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